Joining the ranks of rappers embarking on the world of reality television is Coolio, whose "Coolio's Rules" premieres tonight on the Oxygen network. The days of such hits as "Fantastic Voyage" and "Gangsta's Paradise" being behind him, Coolio is embarking on a new rap album as well as raising his four children in his home. The rapper and executive producer Mike Duffy talked to Jim Halterman about the latest addition to the reality show genre.
Duffy recounted how the show came to be in the first place. "Coolio came in and sort of pitched himself. And when Coolio comes in and pitches himself, you see the show in the first 30 seconds. He's as dynamic and entertaining and likeable a person as anybody who's ever walked into our offices. And so it was a natural for us to move forward with the show. And when Oxygen said they were interested in the show, it just made perfect sense because he's such a great dad." He added that the series "was something we had never heard before and with Coolio at the center, it's going to be a hit because he's such a great guy and such a great character."
While there is much to be scrutinized by bringing your life to television viewers everywhere, Coolio talked about getting used to every facet of your life being documented. "You're very conscious of the cameras being there because you got the equipment there and you got the crew there. And you look at them and... you're talking to them and everything. I think once we started shooting and we started trying to live our everyday lives... I just sorta phased the cameras out."
In terms of parenting, he did say that he has some hopes towards what people will take from the show, even if some of his parenting methods are not exactly conventional or politically correct. "The thing I think people can learn from the show is there are alternatives to parenting. I mean, I'm not the best parent in the world. I strive to be a better parent." Going into more detail, he added, "I don't believe in time out [and] some people are going to disagree with my views. I'm really vocal. I will get physical. If you get out of line in that way where I have to get physical with you, I'm going to get physical."
One of the more volatile relationships in the series is between Coolio and his eldest son and namesake, Artis. 18-year-old Artis, who explains in the first episode how he aspires to 'hustle' as opposed to actually work, butts heads with Coolio often in the series due to his work ethic. Asked how things have been between them since the show stopped filming, Coolio gave this update. "[Artis is] starting to take a little bit more responsibility and starting to actually see things from a different... perspective because I've been taking him on the road a little bit with me and just letting him see some of the stuff that I deal with on a day-to-day basis a little bit more."
Unlike Artis, Coolio doesn't have the same worries about his three daughters, who make up the rest of the clan in the Coolio household. "My daughters are pretty good so I trust them. And I see the way they are and the way they talk and I'm not worried about nobody poppin' up pregnant and I'm not worried about that. If it happens, that's something I'll deal with if it happens, when it happens. I'm not trying to just walk around being worried all the time. I'm trying to let them live their [lives]." Reflecting back on his own experience growing up, Coolio offered, "All my life lessons I learned the hard way. I didn't have the benefit of the doubt for anything. I was so stupid that I had to go and find out for myself. So far, none of [my kids] are like that."
One of the reasons that his children are such a priority at this stage in his life is, as Coolio explained, to teach them the value of hard work and to make up for lost time. "Unfortunately... I didn't really raise my children because they didn't live with me when they were younger so their work ethic has nothing to do with what I've taught them growing up. You know, their work ethic totally comes from their other parent. So I will defend myself on that."
Like any parent, though, Coolio admitted to having many fears for his children but wasn't able to pinpoint just one. "I got so many of them," he said, "that I never really tried to narrow it down to one. I suppose my biggest fear is that I... that something happens to me and... I'm not there for them and they haven't prepared themselves for what they got to deal with as an adult." He further acknowledged that there are many differences between the time he grew up and the present day. "Things have changed quite a bit. As the new laws came in, kids can call the police on you. I understand that with all the child abuse that goes on in the world. But it also affects people who are doing a fairly good job."
Despite the show's focus on Coolio and his kids, there will be some time for the 45-year old to get a little romance cooking on the series, he teased. "Right before the show started I actually had a girlfriend... who I was actually in love with. But I am a man. I do have my needs and wants and everything. It wasn't like I broke up with somebody and I said okay, well, I'm so heartbroken and I really want this girl back so I'm going to sit at home and be a hermit. That didn't happen by any means. But, as far as romance goes, there was a little romancing here and there."
Being a celebrity, however, Coolio has his own methods for knowing if a potential love interest has her sights set on his wallet more than who he is as a person. "What you do is test them," he said. "Ask them for some money first. You say Hey, I'm having a rough time right now, you know?... I'm running kinda short. Listen, I was wondering if you can loan me maybe $1000. I'm a little short on the mortgage this month... Try that out on someone."
Outside of dating, music and parenting, there is another surprising venture that Coolio explores in "Coolio's Rules" � cooking. "Cooking and music go hand in hand really just like acting," the budding chef/caterer said. "It's a form of preparation mixed with performance as well as some intellect being used. You get prepared for something and you do it... cooking is therapy for me." He revealed that the love for cooking came out of some self-destructive behavior. "I don't do any hard drugs anymore and so you find alternatives to things. You replace things that you don't want in your life with other things. And cooking is one of the things that I use to replace some of the other things in my life that I used to do, that I decided not to do anymore." True to point, Coolio starts his own catering business in the series premiere and recruits his kids to work for him to save on the cost of labor.
To see firsthand how the legendary rapper has evolved into a parent with more talents that just music, check out the debut of "Coolio's Rules," which airs tonight on Oxygen at 10:00/9:00c.